The first few months of motherhood left me deeply scarred. I have found myself entirely broken down and beaten more often than I want to admit. There were countless tear-filled days of complete anger, guilt and frustration. I used to believe that the newborn stage was the easiest, after all it‘s just eat, play, sleep and repeat, and that‘s what people say, right? But oh boy was I wrong. I had to learn the hard way that parenting is way more difficult than I had anticipated, but let’s start from the very beginning.
Our breastfeeding journey has been a bumpy road. After Novak was first laid on my chest, he did not latch perfectly. This poor little guy really struggled, even days and weeks after. As a first-time mom I had no idea either. Being afraid he would lose too much weight, I was rushed to supplement formula – the damage was already done. Looking back there was no need to add formula because he hardly lost any weight, all I needed was an adequate consultation. Coming home I was left alone with a newborn who did not know how to nurse properly. Being scared of doing something wrong, I continued to supplement. And it worked quite well for a couple of weeks until Novak started with a nursing strike. He absolutely refused to nurse, and he rejected both the bottle and the breast. Not only did he refuse to eat, but he got very angry and would scream at me every time he ate which was up to ten times a day. I felt so depleted. It has always been my goal to exclusively breastfeed, and my lovely midwife made it a much more pleasant experience, but my goal seemed so far away. I have tried everything in the book from arming myself with the right nursing supplies to trying different breastfeeding positions. I followed my baby‘s cues, I paid attention to my nutrition, I avoided alcohol and coffeine completely, I limited certain foods, I was taking supplements, we did skin-to-skin for days, yet still nothing seemed to work, and Novak was fussier than ever. Every time I talked to other people about our nursing situation, I felt constantly judged. I was attacked for using formula, and if I didn‘t know that breast was best. I felt this immense pressure, so when I wasn‘t breastfeeding I was pumping, and when I wasn‘t pumping I was breastfeeding. My mental health was rapidly declining, and I had to do something. I stopped pumping altogether, and started to believe in my son‘s ability to take what he needs. And even if I may not be able to fully satisfy my child, at least I can give him something, and that‘s all that matters to me. Once I‘ve released the emotional load off of my shoulders, I‘ve realized that Novak demanded less and less formula, I was so relieved. Right now, six months into breastfeeding, he gets a bottle of formula before bed, and I top up after our morning nursing session. During the day and night, he seems to be fully satisfied with breastfeeding. And I always look forward to our breastfeeding sessions. It always melts my heart the way Novak gently puts his tiny hands around my finger, and rubs my chest as he nurses. He still wakes up at night to nurse, sometimes once, sometimes twice, and sometimes up to five times. It‘s his greatest source of comfort.
Speaking of his sleeping, Novak has kept me on my toes since day one. Scrolling through social media I was bombarded by so-called sleep-trainers, who apparently figured out the perfect wake windows, the amount of naps a baby should take, oh and let‘s not forget the phrase put your baby down drowsy but awake. Novak hardly slept as a newborn, sometimes he was awake for up to ten hours. And I can‘t tell you how many times I‘ve walked my house from end to end in a desperate attempt to calm him down enough to sleep. Trying to recover from giving birth, this had such a lasting impact on my body because every bedtime routine consisted of spending hours bouncing my baby to sleep, crying in frustration when he woke up ten minutes later, and repeating the process over and over again. And the thing is he didn‘t want a gentle rocking to soothe him, it was more a violent bounce/ sway combo that left me breathless and exhausted every single night. It plagued me with guilt as I so often lost my temper. I‘m ashamed to say I got angry, and yelled, and cried and stomped around way too often. I was just so fatigued, and the emotions I faced in these desperate sleepless hours scared me. It’s one thing to deal with these things for a short amount of time but it was going on for weeks, even months and there was no end in sight.
I was completely overwhelmed with love for this tiny creature but I was also overwhelmed by how much he needed me. All of the time. Every day. Every night. And sometimes it felt like too much, like I was being suffocated. I had no idea how to help him. My to-do list was piling up as well as my frustration. Every time I tried to clean and accomplish tasks, Novak has been fussing up a storm. He cried a whole lot with no explanation of what‘s wrong. Temper tantrums and mood swings have been plentiful. It was easy for me to become frustrated when I had a baby who couldn‘t be soothed or entained when every surface and corner of my living space was growing more and more messy. After hours of fussiness I was baffled as to how to calm him down. After trying every trick in the book I gave up and just held him against my chest, within minutes he calmed down. The moment I started listening to his cues rather than following a rigid schedule, things started to improve immensely. Sometimes the days were tough and seemed to drag on forever. Way too often, I found myself longing for the evening when I could lay him down for the night. I freaked out, I screamed, I cried and I felt guilty while this poor baby probably just wanted love and affection. I constantly had to remind myself that it‘s okay to leave the laundry in a pile on the floor sometimes and choosing to hold your little one instead. Housework can wait, your kids will not, and they will certainly not remember a spotless home, but the memories you‘ve made with them.
It‘s been a rough few months. Some days are great, some days are really really hard. And I have to admit that parenthood is the hardest role I‘ve ever had to take on. It‘s emotionally draining, it‘s character building, it‘s patience-testing, and it‘s tear-filled. Most days I find myself crying over and over again because I just don‘t know what to do. To be honest I have no idea what I‘m doing, but that‘s the beauty of it, isn‘t it? We are all learning and becoming better human beings the more we practice, the more we experience. And being a mother is not about being perfect. It‘s about making mistakes, learning from those mistakes, and humbling yourself to apologize for those mistakes. There is so much I know now that I wish I could‘ve told myself earlier this year when I was desperately rocking my crying boy back to sleep for the millionth time. There is so much more that I have yet to learn. Motherhood is messy, it‘s chaotic but it‘s so worth it.